The ten-year Uganda National Bamboo Strategy and Action Plan (2019-29) highlights the importance of bamboo growing and processing to the sustainable economic growth of Uganda. The focus of the strategy is to achieve a viable and sustainable bamboo industry in Uganda. To the Ugandan household, bamboo has several benefits including being a source of energy for cooking and a cash crop expected to be in high demand in the five to ten years. The time to start growing bamboo is now. The commercialization of bamboo growing in Uganda is expected to generate income for the farmers and also create job opportunities for the rural community in addition to protecting the environment. The following are lessons learned through growing bamboo that could benefit the intending farmers;
The landscapes for growing bamboo include fertile, degraded, mountainous, sandy, stony, and sometimes water-logged land areas. On our farm, we are growing bamboo along the river banks, on fertile and rocky land areas, and some of the bamboo is planted in wetland areas.
It is necessary to prepare the land for growing as bamboo seedlings do not do very in unmaintained farmland but bamboo can survive in the bush once it has matured. Therefore, the land should be prepared well in advance for planting bamboo seedlings. The bamboo tends to do very well in moist, fertile, and free-draining areas.
The bamboo is propagated either with cuttings from the culms, the main stalks of the bamboo, or the rhizomes, which are the root system.
Giant bamboo species require spacing of about 7 by 7 meters and small species require only 4 meters by 4 meters. The hole dug should be at least twice the size of the pot the seedlings have come in and should be at least six inches deeper than the size of the pot. The hole should be bigger in case the bamboo is being planted on degraded land. Bamboo planted on degraded land require some animal manure or fertilizers to help it in the early stages of growth.
The young bamboos have to be regularly watered unless they are planted during the rainy season. There is a need for weeding and slushing to keep the bamboo garden clean. There is a bit of pruning required as the bamboo matures to avoid it being too bushy. The bamboos have to be properly looked after when they are still young, Spot weeding around the bamboo seedlings should be done to avoid the seedlings competing for nutrients with weeds.
Withstands strong winds
Bamboo can be used as a wind barrier as it is a very flexible plant that will bend and sway in the strongest wind speeds with only the very youngest culms suffering damage. Bamboos can bend to ground level under the weight of high winds, then straighten back up to their full height once the conditions have eased.
Market for bamboo
According to UNO FAO, 15.2% of Uganda is forested and the forests are being destroyed at a fast rate to pave way for human settlement and infrastructure development. Therefore, there is increasing demand for timber and firewood as the natural forests are depleted. The trees that are recommended for afforestation programs are not maturing fast enough to overtake the demand. Bamboo is the only plant that matures in three years and can easily meet demand in the short term.
The products on the farm made from bamboo include the following among others;
- Building materials;
- Making temporary bridges;
- Making furniture;
- Fencing poles;
- Making food containers;
- Firewood and
- Food containers.
There are many bamboo products on the market indicating potential demand for locally produced products.
Uganda has joined an International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)( www.inbar.int ) that helps members with bamboo information, technology transfer, capacity building, and policy formulation.
It is difficult to get funding for the promotion and growth of bamboo from the financial sector. However, the Uganda government has set aside UGX 290 billion for the planting of bamboo.
Uganda Bamboo Association
Uganda Bamboo Association (UBA) ( www.Ugandabambooassociation,com] brings together organizations and individuals to share knowledge and technology to enhance bamboo production and value addition.
Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI)
Uganda Industrial Research Institute ( www.uiri.go.ug ) has a unit researching how to add value to bamboo. Some of the products of UIRI are already on the market
The challenges the farmer may initially face in the growing of bamboo include the following among others;
- Lack of seedlings for planting;
- Limited support from the government;
- Raising capital for the growing of bamboo is a challenge;
- There is no big buyer of bamboo as of now;
- Lack of community awareness of the uses of bamboo;
- There is limited research knowledge on bamboo in Uganda;